Identifying & Organizing Relevant Information in Math

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has been teaching math for over 9 years. Amy has worked with students at all levels from those with special needs to those that are gifted.

Math problems often include a step of identifying the information that is needed, known as relevant information. Practice identifying relevant information before organizing and solving example problems. Updated: 11/18/2021

Relevant Information

Look at this problem:

John and Jacob are two brothers. John works 20 hours a week at the local burger shop, while Jacob works 30 hours a week at the local coffee shop. John makes $10 an hour while Jacob makes $12 an hour. How many hours does John need to work to make $450?

There is a lot of information given to you in this problem. But, do you need all of it? When a piece of information is necessary to solve a problem, it is called relevant information. For you to solve this problem, you need to only consider the information that is relevant. If you consider the other information, it will interfere with your problem solving. In fact, it slows you down and can sometimes mislead you.

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  • 0:00 Relevant Information
  • 0:47 Identifying It
  • 1:47 Organizing It
  • 2:22 Solving It
  • 2:41 Example
  • 3:55 Lesson Summary
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Identifying It

Let's take the problem that you just read over. What are the pieces of relevant information in this problem? To find this out, you need to look at what the problem wants you to find out. The sentence that asks you the question is key here. What is this asking you? It is asking you to find out how many hours John needs to work in order to make $450. This question tells you that your focus needs to be on John and not Jacob. Actually, Jacob doesn't factor into the problem at all. You can basically leave Jacob out, completely ignoring anything about him. This question also tells you what pieces of information you need. You know that in order to answer the question, you need to know the total amount and the amount earned per hour. With these two bits of information, you can calculate the amount of work hours needed by using the formula:

Hours Needed = Total Amount / Amount Earned per Hour

Organizing It

Once you have figured out what pieces of information are relevant, then you will want to organize the information to make it easier for you to solve the problem. You can label your relevant information, and you can write it down in table form. For this problem, you label your relevant pieces of information, highlighting them as you go. You highlight John's name, that he makes $10 an hour, and that he wants to earn a total of $450. You then write down your relevant pieces of information in formula form. You get:

Hours Needed = $450 / $10

Solving It

Finding your answer now is easy, as all you need to do is to evaluate your relevant pieces of information in formula form. So, evaluating:

Hours Needed = $450 / $10

You get 45. So, John needs to work for 45 hours in order to make $450.

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